Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Thinking of a Number PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 19 July 2015 00:00

I understand the risk attached to Jim Johnson, the newly anointed Braves closer. As of Saturday morning, the Braves trail the Nationals by 6 1/2 games in the NL East and sit five games back of the second wild card spot. One more prolonged losing streak could officially signal the end of their postseason hopes and quite possibly the end of Johnson's tenure in Atlanta. Coming off a disastrous 2014 campaign, the veteran righty is enjoying a fine bounce back season, and contending teams are always looking to acquire an additional bullpen arm at the trade deadline. While Johnson does have plenty of closing experience, chances are he would slide back into a setup role for his new club, squashing his new-found fantasy value. Still, this whole trade scenario remains merely conjecture. Nothing has happened yet, and who knows, maybe nothing will happen. Right now, Johnson will be getting all of the save chances for the Braves, and that's all that matters to fantasy owners. And this is why I was so surprised when I checked the Mixed Auction Tout Wars website shortly after midnight on Thursday.

As it turned out, my $19 bid for Johnson's services was way more than enough to land him, as the next highest bid was $6. So thanks to the Vickrey system, the cost of my Johnson investment was a very reasonable $7. Something didn't seem right about this. Maybe my league mates were aware of vital information that slipped me by? Maybe Johnson sustained some sort of injury while sitting on his couch during the All-Star break? Nope. Checking the FAAB results from the Tout Wars Mixed Draft league further reassured me, as Johnson went for $37. Look, it's entirely possible that he gets traded tomorrow, but $7? And a $30 difference in price between the two 15-team mixed leagues?

This got me thinking about the FAAB process. More specifically, it got me thinking about the Vickrey system, where the highest bid gets reduced to one dollar more than the second-highest bid. All it takes is one additional aggressive bid to force the high bidder to pay a much steeper price. In the case of the Mixed Draft league, there was a $44 bid for Johnson followed by $36 and $27. In Mixed Auction Tout Wars, my $19 bid, which was more of a price-enforcing bid than an expectation of winning him, topped a $6 bid and a $1 bid. In other words, in the Mixed Draft bidding, there was clearly a higher level of interest in the player. My thoughts then wandered to the idea of looking at both leagues and comparing the most expensive FAAB purchases of the 2015 season. And that's exactly what I did. Note that N/A means that the player was not acquired via the FAAB system.


Byron Buxton 46 6/15 N/A
Jason Grilli 41 4/6 17 4/6
Brett Cecil 40 5/4 N/A
Eduardo Rodriguez 33 6/1 N/A
Taijuan Walker 33 6/1 N/A
Joey Gallo 27 6/8 26 6/8
John Axford 25 5/4 7 4/27
Ervin Santana 22 7/6 1 6/22
Blake Swihart 21 5/4 20 5/4
Maikel Franco 19 5/18 9 5/18


Jim Johnson 37 7/17 7 7/17
Joey Gallo 26 6/8 27 6/8
Jake Marisnick 25 5/4 N/A
Jeurys Familia 23 4/13 0 4/6
Miguel Castro 22 4/13 0 4/6
Blake Swihart 20 5/4 21 5/4
Addison Russell 20 4/27 1 4/13
Cameron Maybin 17 4/6 15 4/6
Jason Grilli 17 4/6 41 4/6
Justin Bour 12 6/1 6 5/25
Kyle Schwarber 12 6/22 14 7/17
Vincent Velasquez 12 6/15 10 6/15

As I thought, the Johnson price difference of 30 bucks is the largest to date, followed by Jason Grilli ($24), Jeurys Familia ($23), Miguel Castro ($22) and Ervin Santana ($21). But since timing is so important when it comes to FAAB prices, Johnson and Grilli stand out among this group being that they were each purchased in the same week in Mixed Auction Tout Wars as in Mixed Draft Tout Wars. Must be something about those Braves closers.

For his $41, Cory Schwartz ended up getting 17 saves from Grilli. If only I can get a bit more than half as much from Johnson.

One down, eight to go.

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 July 2015 02:05
Seemed Like a Good Idea PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 05 July 2015 00:00

Part of the challenge that comes with playing in so many fantasy leagues is the need to diversify, especially if most of your leagues follow the auction draft format. In auctions, you have more control over the players you draft, and while it is often tempting to take the same guys over and over again, I try to mix things up as best as I can in an effort to protect myself against injury or underperformance. One ruined team is bad enough. Two ruined teams is worse. Three, four or five ruined teams is unacceptable. This isn't to say that I purposely avoid drafting certain players simply because I already drafted them in multiple leagues. But, when choosing between two or more players who I value similarly, I use this factor as a tiebreaker of sorts.

Ultimately, however, I have found that owning the same player in multiple leagues is unavoidable, mostly because when putting together my target list, my main objective is to identify guys who I feel are being undervalued. And, if they are undervalued in one draft, chances are they will be undervalued in more than one draft.

On that note, as we arrive at the halfway mark of the 2015 season, here's a look at five players who I own in at least two leagues but regret owning in at least two leagues, or even one league for that matter.

Adam Jones - While it might be a bit harsh to say that I regret owning Jones, the bottom line is that he has yet to come anywhere close to giving me even an equal return on my draft day investment. After averaging 31 homers and 95 RBI per season from 2012-2014, the Orioles centerfielder is on pace to finish the year with 20 homers and 74 RBI. Top-15 fantasy player? Not quite.

Mark Trumbo - Coming off a 2014 campaign in which he swatted 14 homers despite being limited to 88 games due to injury, Trumbo seemed primed for a bounce back season, especially considering that he would be playing half of his games in home run-friendly Chase Field. Trumbo posted a decent but not great stat line in 46 games with the Diamondbacks this year (9 HR, 23 RBI, .805 OPS) , but since getting traded to the Mariners, he's been an absolute mess, batting .139 with one home run, five RBI and a .361 OPS through 22 contests. Although Trumbo's 2015 campaign can't get much worse, I'm not expecting much. Spacious Safeco Field won't do him any favors.

Elvis Andrus - I wasn't counting on Andrus to all of a sudden turn back into the shortstop who averaged 90 runs and 33 steals per season from 2010-2013, but I did expect 25-30 swipes and roughly 80 runs. If Andrus continues at his current pace, he will finish the year with 60 runs and 18 steals, and he's batting .240 through 79 games. The good news is that he is still just 26 years of age. The bad news is that the decline has been so steep that I'm not too optimistic about his chances of rebounding in 2015 or beyond.

Austin Jackson - I thought that a full season hitting atop an improved Mariners lineup would do Jackson some good. I thought that he would be a reliable source of runs and steals. I thought wrong. At least it didn't cost much to draft him because if it did, I'd be in trouble being that I own him in three leagues. Jackson is currently on my bench in all three of those leagues. He did miss some time due to injury, but even when healthy, the production just hasn't been there. I have no intention of drafting him in 2016.

Ian Kennedy - Any discussion about disappointing players wouldn't be complete without checking in on Kennedy, whom I continue to draft every year despite his continued inconsistency. He has pitched better of late, though his eight unearned runs over his last two starts shouldn't go unnoticed. Home runs have always been an issue for Kennedy, but after allowing a reasonable 16 longballs across 33 starts last season, it seemed like he was  making strides in that department. As it turns out, it was all a tease. Through 14 starts this year, the Padres righty has already served up 17 homers.  

But I'll probably draft Kennedy again next year. And, again the year after that.

At least in one league.

Or maybe two.

Last Updated on Sunday, 05 July 2015 08:34
Senior Discount PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 28 June 2015 00:00

In recent years, I have made a special effort to limit the number of older players I draft in my fantasy leagues. Yeah, these grizzled veterans might carry solid track records, but with an aged player the injury risk tends to be higher, while the chances of handing owners a profit tends to be lower than a talented 25-year-old who is just entering his prime. But, something strange is happening this season. So many of these elder statesmen, players who were avoided by many owners in drafts this spring, are far exceeding expectations. Let's go around the diamond and take a look at some of these guys. Note that ages along with draft day prices in Mixed Auction Tout Wars are included in parenthesis. Also note the number 35.5, the average age of this roster.

A.J. Pierzynski (38, $0 FAAB pickup) - After opening the season as Christian Bethancourt's backup, Pierzynski is now Atlanta's unquestioned starting catcher, sporting a .263 batting average with four homers and 24 RBI through 48 games. Considering that he wasn't even drafted in many NL-only leagues, A.J. is more than deserving of a spot on this team.

1B  Mark Teixeira (35, $2) - I wanted no part of Tex this year, and apparently I wasn't in the minority. But 68 games, 18 home runs and 51 RBI later, I'm not looking too good. But, the same can be said about the 13 other Mixed Auction Tout Wars owners who opted not to bid $3 for the revitalized Yankees first baseman, so I don't feel too bad.

2B  Brandon Phillips (34, $1) - Happy 34th birthday, Brandon! No, I'm not making this up. Today really is his birthday. Anyway, Phillips, a former early-round fantasy selection due to his ability to contribute in both the power and speed departments, suffered through an injury-plagued and flat-out dismal 2014 campaign. 2015 has been a different story, and perhaps the most surprising stat is his 11 steals, this after swiping a combined seven bags from 2013-2014. However, the four homers and 28 RBI through 64 games are nothing to get excited about. Still, owners who drafted Phillips as a late-round flier or $1 endgame purchase can't complain.

SS  Yunel Escobar (32, $1 FAAB pickup) - I almost went with Jhonny Peralta here. But unlike Peralta, Escobar wasn't even on the mixed league radar heading into this season, yet he's playing every day and batting .322 through 67 games. That said, the last time Escobar posted a batting average above .258 was back in 2011, so I'm not confident that he will maintain a whole lot of mixed league value going forward.

3B  Alex Rodriguez (39, $4) - By far the easiest choice. No one had any clue what to expect from A-Rod coming off a full season away from the game. Well, we're almost at the halfway mark of the 2015 campaign and he's on pace for 32 homers and 95 RBI. A-Rod could very well turn out to be the highest profit fantasy pick of the season, and serving as a full-time DH reduces the risk of an injury.

OF  Curtis Granderson (34, $3) - Granderson's sophomore season in Queens started out slowly, as he batted .231 with only one home run in April. Since the beginning of May, however, he's launched a combined 11 home runs, and his .281 batting average in June has raised his season average to at least a respectable .250. Although his final 2015 stat line might look a lot like the 2014 version, aside from perhaps a higher average, the fact that his draft day price was much cheaper this time around makes all the difference. Relative to the cost, Granderson owners should end up being satisfied.

OF  Nori Aoki (33, $1) - Aoki's fine 2015 season has been halted by a trip to the DL, and as of now, his return timetable is unclear. But, that doesn't take away from the .317 batting average and 12 steals over his first 67 games. Especially in Tout, where OBP is used instead of AVG, Aoki (.383 OBP) has been well worth the $1 gamble.

OF  Torii Hunter (39, $1) - We're still waiting for the aging Hunter to lose fantasy relevance, but at this point, it's looking like that will not happen anytime soon. Torii is well on his way towards posting his seventh straight 80-plus RBI campaign, and already with ten homers through 66 games, he's on pace to finish the season with his highest home run total since 2011.

Now all we need is for 42-year-old LaTroy Hawkins to regain the Rockies closer job.


Last Updated on Sunday, 28 June 2015 07:54
Do You Really Get What You Pay For? PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 14 June 2015 00:00

I don't mind being in the minority, but when it comes to industry auction leagues, the popularity of the "Stars and Scrubs" strategy is a bit surprising to me. Sure, it is sort of fun to load up on a few elite players and then go bargain hunting for your favorite $1 fliers, but it won't be fun when one or more of those elite players either lands on the DL or significantly underperforms relative to their draft day cost.

As you can tell, I prefer a more balanced approach, not so balanced that I avoid drafting any $30+ players, but I won't be the guy that owns both Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw. In Mixed Auction Tout Wars, some of my most profitable picks over the years have been in the $10-$20 range: Jose Altuve ($16) and Nelson Cruz ($10) last year, and Chris Archer ($10) this year.

As tempting as it is to draft as many sure things as possible, the reality is that very few players are sure things, and very few of these perceived sure things end up giving their owners even an equal return on their investment. Call it peer pressure, but I often question my auction strategy. Maybe I'm not enough of a risk taker. Maybe the secret to winning these industry leagues is to be a risk taker. But judging from the results through two-plus months of the 2015 season, I don't think I'll be changing my philosophy anytime soon. Let's look at some Mixed Auction Tout Wars draft data.

Here are the 19 players that were purchased for a price of at least $30 back in March:

Mike Trout ($48 to Van Riper)

Paul Goldschmidt ($44 to Davitt)

Andrew McCutchen ($44 to Gonos)

Anthony Rizzo ($40 to Steinhorn)

Giancarlo Stanton ($40 to Melchior)

Carlos Gomez ($39 to Heaney)

Miguel Cabrera ($39 to Pianowski)

Jose Bautista ($36 to Pisapia)

Jose Abreu ($36 to Swanay)

Clayton Kershaw ($36 to Swanay)

Edwin Encarnacion ($35 to Schwartz)

Bryce Harper ($33 to Singman)

Josh Donaldson ($32 to Schwartz)

George Springer ($31 to Melchior)

Jose Altuve ($31 to DiFino)

Felix Hernandez ($31 to Heaney)

Yasiel Puig ($31 to Schwartz)

Joey Votto ($31 to Gonos)

Hanley Ramirez ($31 to Engel)

At the time, all of the above prices seemed perfectly reasonable, but how many of these 19 players have netted their owners a profit? Actually, let's even forget about profit. How many of these 19 players have given their owners $30 value? There's not a clear correct answer to this question, but by my count, factoring in that Tout uses OBP instead of AVG, the answer is ten (Trout, Goldschmidt, Rizzo, Stanton, Cabrera, Kershaw, Harper, Donaldson, Hernandez, Votto). So that's roughly a 53% success rate even when lowering the standard to $30. Note that only six of the ten most expensive players pass the test.

Stars and Scrubs just isn't my thing, and if these numbers don't lie, I might not be so crazy after all.  

Last Updated on Sunday, 14 June 2015 08:23
Going for Broke PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 07 June 2015 00:00

Regular readers of this column probably know that I'm a big proponent of aggressive FAAB spending early in the season if you come to the conclusion that a certain player can significantly boost your chances of rising in the standings. And, there are two main reasons why I follow this philosophy. First, the earlier you add a player that you feel can make an immediate impact on your team, the more time he has to make that impact. Second, you just never know when or if a better option will come along. In non-mixed formats, I can understand why owners tend to be more conservative in their bidding in the early going, holding out hope that an elite player will become available via a crossover trade prior to the July 31st deadline. But that strategy can backfire if either no marquee trade transpires or if all of the notable trades involve players being sent to the other league. Well, at least no one can accuse me of not practicing what I preach, as my $40 purchase of Brett Cecil in Mixed Auction Tout Wars ranks as the second-richest FAAB acquisition so far this season. The only problem is that the 40 FAAB bucks has so far bought me one save in only one save chance. No save chances in over a month? Are you kidding me? OK, no more venting, I promise.

Now that we have passed the one-third mark of the season, let's take a look at the highest-priced FAAB purchases in Mixed Auction Tout Wars. Do my league mates share my view when it comes to early-season FAAB spending? Sort of. Here are the 12 winning bids of at least $15.

Jason Grilli ($41 to Cory Schwartz)

Brett Cecil ($40 to Zach Steinhorn)

Eduardo Rodriguez ($33 to Al Melchior)

Taijuan Walker ($33 to Nando DiFino)

John Axford ($25 to Joe Pisapia)

Blake Swihart ($21 to Ray Flowers)

Maikel Franco ($19 to Tim Heaney)

Drew Pomeranz ($18 to Paul Singman)

Brad Ziegler ($17 to Scott Pianowski)

Ender Inciarte ($15 to Fred Zinkie)

Cameron Maybin ($15 to Zach Steinhorn)

Carlos Perez ($15 to Paul Singman)

Unsurprisingly, four of these 12 players are closers, as potential saves tend to garner the highest bids. After all, saves is a category. But to be honest, I'm bored of closer talk, so I'll limit this discussion to the top-5 non-closer pickups.

Eduardo Rodriguez - One earned run across 14 2/3 innings with a 14-to-4 K/BB is a pretty good way to open your big league career. Combine that with Eduardo's exceptional minor league numbers this season and Boston's glaring need for starting rotation help and it's growing more and more likely that Rodriguez is with the big club for good. At first, the $33 price tag surprised me, but I'm now thinking that there might even be some profit to be made here.

Taijuan Walker - Investing 33 FAAB bucks in a starting pitcher who has recorded just four quality starts in 11 tries this season is risky business, but Walker is a high-end talent who is only 22 years of age and carries top of the rotation upside. Oh, and two of his four quality starts have come in his last two starts, during which he has allowed a combined three earned runs across 16 innings to go along with 15 strikeouts. I'm generally hesitant to spend so heavily on starting pitchers with minimal big league experience, and Nando did pay a steep price. That said, it's not out of the question that Walker can earn the $33 if he has truly turned the corner. Still, I'm a bit higher on Rodriguez since we have yet to see him struggle at any level this season.

Blake Swihart - Although Swihart has yet to live up to his top prospect billing, playing time will not be an issue for him with the veteran Ryan Hanigan not expected back from the DL until July. And even when Hanigan returns, the Red Sox could opt to give Swihart the majority of the at-bats. The problem is that the results just haven't been there, and even in the Minors, Swihart was more of a high batting average guy than a power hitter. I'll say the chances of Ray's $21 gamble paying off are 50/50 at best.

Maikel Franco - Despite the mediocre .241 batting average through 21 games, Franco's five homers and 15 RBI is proof that he can be a valuable run producer at the big league level. And the best part is that with the Phillies in full rebuild mode, Franco is a lock to remain in the lineup as long as he's healthy. 19 FAAB bucks for a guy who can legitimately hit 20 more homers this season? Not bad at all.

Drew Pomeranz - In a case of poor timing by Singman, Pomeranz landed on the DL after making just one start for Paul's squad, and even though he returned to action earlier this week, the A's will use him out of the bullpen for the time being. While it is possible that Pomeranz will get another opportunity to start at some point this season, there's no guarantee. This is looking more and more like a lost 18 bucks for Paul.

But hey, at least he was aggressive. I commend him for that.

Last Updated on Sunday, 07 June 2015 00:11
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